#theSol Baltimore

#theSolIt has taken me a few days to write this article because, honestly, I just haven’t been able to find the words to describe this past weekend in Baltimore at the 2017 #theSol.

I won’t go into my history with Sol Schwartz – you can read this article if you’re curious – but this tournament is about so much more than junior tennis or college tennis or anything having to do with hitting a yellow ball over a net. It is about honoring the legacy of a man who truly loved the game . . . LOVED the game . . . and devoted his adult life to fighting for its survival and the survival of its traditions.

That’s why #theSol participants play 2 out of 3 full sets. That’s why they play regular scoring (none of that no-ad stuff that makes me crazy). That’s why we empower the players with their own matches, trusting them to play by the rules and to exhibit impeccable sportsmanship without interference from officials. That’s why we encourage on-court coaching at side changes, helping players learn from each game and each match. That’s why we solicit quality sponsors and use the money (instead of charging high entry fees) to create the highest-quality tournament experience we can, providing goody bags filled with fun and useful items, creating a full-color Player Book (thank you to Sol’s niece, Ali, for the beautiful design!), serving lunch and drinks to players and parents, using the net proceeds to #SaveCollegeTennis through grants.

While last year’s Baltimore event found all of us who were close to Sol still feeling pretty raw – he had just passed away 5 months earlier – this year’s event felt more like a true celebration of his life. Sol’s wife, Ilene, did a great job of encouraging Sol’s friends and family to come out to watch the juniors and college kids compete, and, I swear, we had more fans in attendance than at many pro tournaments! I met people who had known Sol since childhood or who had played against him in the juniors or who had been coached by him or who had done business with him at Holabird Sports. The man knew everyone even remotely related to tennis in the mid-Atlantic section!

Now the details . . .

theSolWe wound up with 50 players ranging in age from 9 to 22 and ranging in UTR level from 1.0 (first tournament ever) to 9.85. Players came from Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. Tournament Director Scott Thornton divided them into 7 flights, some playing a round-robin format and others playing a compass draw, ensuring that everyone played 3 matches. Prizes were awarded based on the percentage of games won so that everyone had a chance at the awesome Wilson Prize Package and the 2-month Tennis Trunk subscription as well as other prizes donated by Solinco and the Bryan Brothers.

As I mentioned, the tournament provided lunch for the players and their families theSoleach day. During lunch on Day 1, NextGen star Noah Rubin joined us via FaceTime to chat with the players and answer their questions. He was prepping for his week at the Vancouver Challenger in Canada, so it was especially sweet of him to take some time to interact with us!

theSol
Richard Herskovitz & Ilene Schwartz

During lunch on Day 2, I got the opportunity to hit a little with Standing Adaptive player Richard Herskovitz, a long-time friend of Sol’s who came out to support our tournament. He definitely put me through my paces on the Har-Tru courts! When we found out that one of our final-round players needed to withdraw, Richard graciously stepped in and played against one of our juniors, ensuring that she got her 3rd match for the tournament.

Thanks to their generosity and connection to Sol and his family, we had two photographers on site documenting the weekend. If you’d like to see and/or order any of the photos, click here. The net proceeds will go into our grant fund. There are more photos available to purchase here.

But, enough from me! I want you to hear from the players and parents themselves!

Allen Au, whose 3 sons all played in this year’s tournament, posted on our Facebook page at the end of Day 1. “Awesome First day…. Best junior event I have been to ever.. Everyone was nice and played tennis in the spirit of competition.” What a wonderful testament to the heart of this tournament!

Juan Borga’s 17-year-old daughter, Ana, also played in the tournament. Her older brother, Juan, was supposed to play as well, but unfortunately he injured himself on the practice court a few days beforehand. Here’s Juan Sr’s take on #theSol:

For Tiffany Livingstone’s daughter, Alexa, playing in a tennis tournament was something she had wanted to try but really didn’t know how to go about getting started. Because of their personal connection to Sol’s wife, Ilene, Tiffany signed Alexa up for #theSol this year, and she had a wonderful first tournament experience:

And now hear from two of our players, Anya and Julianne, about their experience:

Of course, none of this would have been possible without the incredible support theSolof our Presenting Sponsor 10sBalls.com; Title Sponsor Holabird Sports; Division I Sponsor Wilson Tennis; Division II Sponsors Kassimir Physical Therapy, Judie Schwartz, and Steven J. Schwartz, MD; Division III Sponsors Maller Wealth Advisors, Match!Tennis App, ParentingAces, Universal Tennis Academy, and UTR; Lunch Sponsors Michael Sellman and the Schwartz Family; Ball Sponsor Jewish Community Center of Baltimore; and In-Kind Sponsors The Bryan Brothers, Crown Trophy, David Brooks, Dunlop, Melanie Rubin, PNC Bank, Solinco, The Suburban Club, Marc Summerfield, Summit Group, Tennis Trunk, TournaGrip, Utz Chips, and Voss Water.

If you would like to get involved in either the Atlanta or Baltimore #theSol tournaments in 2018, please reach out to me via email (lisa@parentingaces.com) or in the Comments below. If you would like to make a donation to our grant fund to #SaveCollegeTennis, you can do so via Venmo or by mailing a check payable to The Sol – just email me for details. Your donation may be tax deductible.

Thank you to everyone who played, donated, volunteered, or came out to support the event! I look forward to seeing y’all again next year!

A New Way to Find a Doubles Partner

doubles partner

I received the following via email from David Feldman, a Tennis Parent in the New England section. With David’s permission, I have also shared it with the folks behind the Match!Tennis App. Please have a look then let us know what you think about it in the Comments below. Thanks! Lisa

As I watch my son attempt to find a satisfying doubles partner for the upcoming 16L1 National Championships and the subsequent 16L1 National Doubles Tournament, it’s clear that this process is very trying for the players. As I’m sure you’ll agree, everybody wants the best partner they can get, many players aren’t sure who that is, and the discovery process is logistically and emotionally challenging for all involved.

I have a proposal: math! In particular, the economists and game theorists have long since studied this problem, and there’s a way to make everybody as happy as possible. It’s called the Stable Roommates Algorithm. Just substitute “doubles partner” for “roommate” and it’s a perfect fit for the doubles partner process. I suggest that USTA implement this algorithm on the TennisLink page for relevant tournaments.

Here’s how it would work:

1) Players admitted to an event would rank the partners they’d be willing to play with. A simple list, ordered from first preference to last preference, of the players accepted into the event. The list would be private; i.e. not shared with other players.

2) Just prior to the event, the Stable Roommates Algorithm would be run by the computer against all of the lists, and it would create doubles pairings. Those players would play with each other.

The best part is that this system would still allow any two players sure they wish to play with each other to do so: Any two players who put each other first on their respective lists are guaranteed to get matched to each other. In this way, this new system includes the current “mutual USTA #” method within it, making the transition comfortable.

Even better, it’d take pressure off of tournament directors to play the role of in-between, and free players (and parents) from the often agonizing parade of requests and rejections. I’m a computer science major and a tennis parent, I’d be happy to discuss this in more detail with USTA National or TennisLink. Best of all, this technique would be applicable to all doubles events across all divisions of USTA play.

Tennis Parent Re-Education

Tennis Parents

Navigating the world of junior tennis is tough – we can all agree on that, I think. And, once we Tennis Parents figure out a system that works for us, we tend to get comfortable and poo-poo any suggestions to change how we’re doing things.

I’m here to tell you, though, that the world of junior tennis is changing, and we Tennis Parents have to change, too, if we hope to keep up. There are a couple of specific changes that I want to address in this article in hopes of helping you shift your mindset just a teeny tiny bit.

The first thing is the way you search for tournaments for your junior player(s). Most parents start with TennisLink to find tournaments of a certain level or in a certain time period or area of the country. You go to the Find A Tournament page, select the gender, age group, USTA section, and date then click the Search button to see what comes up.

Others of you may also use the ITF Juniors website to search for events. You may use the UTR Events site, too. And these are all great resources to find junior tournaments. But, I’m sure you see that this is a bit problematic in that you have to go to all these different websites to find the available events for your players. What if you could find every single junior tournament in one place?

Well, good news! You can!

The Match!Tennis app (click here to listen to my podcast with its creators) now contains not only every USTA tournament but also all ITF (coming soon!) and UTR events, including the ITA Summer Circuit. You can go to one place and search for tournaments to your heart’s content. You can search by type of tournament, age group, geographic area, and date. You can flag the tournaments to add them to your personal calendar and to send you an email reminder when the entry deadline is approaching. You can also use the app to find a doubles partner which definitely makes life easier. And, bonus: the ParentingAces community gets a free 30-day trial plus a 20% discount if you sign up by July 15th. Just click here to try it out for FREE.

The second change I’d love to see Tennis Parents make is the way you sign up for tournaments.

The typical MO is to decide you want your child to play in a specific tournament then go to the Applicants list to see who has already entered, do a little mental rankings calculation, then wait until one minute before the entry deadline to sign up your player. Hey, I’m not judging – I did the exact same thing when my son was in the Juniors. I wanted to see who else was signed up so I could figure out if he would make it into the tournament or have any opportunity to go far enough in the draw to impact his USTA ranking.

Now, with UTR making such big inroads into the junior tournament landscape, and with more and more college coaches explicitly saying they rely on UTR for recruiting purposes, the most important thing you can do for your child is simply to make sure he or she is playing matches on a regular basis, whether it’s tournament matches, high school matches, or league matches. They all count equally toward a player’s UTR.

So, once you decide a tournament is a good fit for your player and your family in terms of level, date, and location, just go ahead and register.

With UTR Events and many other events using UTR for selection and seeding there is no need to shop for tournaments looking for a strong draw, weak draw, points per round considerations, etc. There is no rationale in waiting to sign up and find out who else may decide to play. Your placement in a level-based draw will be based on your UTR. You will get a set number of matches in a draw that will increase the likelihood that you have matches both good for your development and good for your opportunity to improve your UTR. In the event that there are not enough players within a near enough UTR range for this to be possible, then the Tournament Director will not place you in a draw that isn’t good for you. If it’s a UTR event, your fees will be refunded. If everyone is waiting on the sideline to see who else enters then nobody ends up entering.

I know. This is a new way of thinking.

If you want your junior to play in a specific tournament, then register with confidence and without regard for who else is playing. Again, the Tournament Director – if he/she follows the guidelines suggested by UTR – will not allow players to be placed in draws that are not beneficial for the player.

So, Tennis Parents, let’s practice what we preach to our kids. Let’s have a growth mindset when it comes to our kids’ competition.

For years our only choice for junior competition was USTA tournaments but now there are several options available. Let’s embrace a new way of doing business now that we have the option to do so. Our children will benefit and so will we.